Healthcare 2.0: The Use of Web 2.0 in Healthcare

Healthcare 2.0: The Use of Web 2.0 in Healthcare

Shakib Manouchehri (University of Kassel, Germany) and Udo Winand (University of Kassel, Germany)
DOI: 10.4018/978-1-60566-384-5.ch038
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From an economic, as well as a social point of view, healthcare is a significant part of our society and forms a major, ever-growing market. Therefore, this sector has the constant challenge of improving and reducing the cost of services. With respect to interaction, communication, and collaboration between patients and doctors, as well as among each other, the Internet provides new possibilities. Therefore a massive potential for innovation, by so called Web 2.0 applications, is offered. They are also increasingly used via mobile devices. The present article attends to this research with the aim to discuss potentials and restrictions of the use of Web 2.0 applications in healthcare as well as the mobile use of it.
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The significance of health care is not only restricted to its enormous economic importance, but also has political, emotional and social importances. Due to its political values, the density of regulation is very high. It is a part of the basic understanding and the absolute core of the self-concept of progressive states, to allow all their citizens to have the best possible medical care. In the course of demographic developments, the importance of the health sector will increase more and more. An aging society tends towards requiring more medical services.

At the same time certain limits in financial terms exist for the market growth. Those limits result from excessive demands of the premium payers. This gap between growing demands and not equally growing possibilities creates an enormous cost pressure on all participants in health care. Further various other factors contribute to this cost pressure, for example new highly technological, research-intense and therefore consequently expensive methods of treatment.

In addition, there is a boom in service areas, which are often embraced by the term “wellness”, e.g. Beauty farms (Kickbusch & Payne, 2003). This fact demonstrates that besides the high cost pressure there is an enormous demand for additional medical services within the core area of medical action. Therefore a lot of citizens are willing and prepared to meet additional expenses in order to care for their health and to advance their own comfort and well-being. A lot of participants in health care try to generate money in the area of those additional medical and like services.

In this regard, the motivation of all actions is to provide the best possible health care of the citizens, which can be enhancing their comfort, fighting their diseases or rather to make these diseases more bearable. In economic terms, there is no more directly presentable social demand to health care. Abstractly speaking it is a matter of an extraordinary great deal of quality demands, whereas the steady further increase of the achieved quality standard remains perpetual aim, normally yet ahead of any economic valuation.

Heading for more and more high quality products, communication presents a key component in many cases. It is an important part of doctor-patient-relationship. The patient wants to interact increasingly in decision making during the treatments of his health problems and he wants to be considered mature by his doctor (Mayer, 2004). Thereby, communication mostly takes place within the consultation hours. An online-study of 2006 for the Wall Street Journal (2006), states that a lot of the interviewees would want an online service in order to communicate with their doctors. This shows that concerning after treatment or constant care, there is a demand for more communication (Tautz, 2002). Web based self-help-supplies, communities or portals, which are successfully integrated in health care, are examples for this development.

But also within the medical service process the quality of communication is often crucial for the attainable total quality of the process (Tautz, 2002). For example, it can sometimes be advantageous to have diagnoses of radiogram or computer tomography pictures peer-reviewed by experts, who are certainly not available at any time, at any place, for example in rural areas.

In these areas modern information and communication technologies (ICT), which have become well known as Web 2.0 and which enjoy great popularity among private user groups, contain immense potentials. In the following, it will be illustrated if and how such systems can help improving communication processes within service processes in this sector. In doing so, added potential in particular, which results from using modern information and communication structures, shall be assessed, mainly based on the fact that nowadays for most people the use of mobile devices has become an essential part of their everyday life. Despite focusing on improvements of quality, cost effects should not be neglected, for considering the demonstrated special situation of health care. For this purpose the possibility of migration from stationary to mobile systems shall be discussed additionally.

Key Terms in this Chapter

Migration: In the discipline of information systems, migration refers to the replacement or upgrade of applications and/or software systems with potentially better ones

Blogs: Blog (Weblog) compounds the terms “web” and “log” and describes websites in terms of logbooks or diaries. These are mainly characterized by short and regular entries, which, in their original form, link to resources, websites as well as other weblogs and which describe and comment those for other users.

Web 2.0: The term Web 2.0 comprises applications, which are used in social interaction among groups, support human communication and collaboration and therefore foster design and maintenance of social networks as well as publication and disposition of information within social networks.

Instant Messaging: Instant messaging (IM) applications are server-based services which enable to communicate in real-time with other members via client-software.

Social Networking: Social networking platforms support design and maintenance of private and professional relationships on the internet. They act in accordance with demands and premises of increasingly diversified user-groups with the aim, to facilitate cooperation between individuals as well as the exchange of thoughts and contents.

Prosumer: The trend towards the so-called age of participation provides that in future there are no more separations between bidder and buyer, and producer and consumer. Today users are no longer only consumer; they increasingly become producers. This new type of participant is called a prosumer.

Social Bookmarking: Social bookmarking systems allow users to well-categorize, file and, above all, retrieve large amounts of information.

Wiki: A wiki is a page or collection of Web pages designed to enable anyone who accesses it to contribute or modify content, using a simplified markup language.

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